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Where To Begin? December 18, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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As some of you may have noticed, I like to extract lessons from the day-to-day incidents that surround us.  If I’m able to extract some little nugget from an experience, I count it as a worthwhile event.  Imagine my delight to uncover five lessons in a short, two minute encounter earlier this week.

I was in line at a local craft shop. The fellow in front of me was part of a larger group of dads and their kids, making crafts as Christmas gifts.  Apparently, they all paid on arrival, but this dad had discovered he had a 50% off coupon in his wallet.  He was asking for a refund of half of his fee.  And thus the lessons in poor service began.

  1. Develop policies that punish your customer. The salesperson immediately responded with “We do not give refunds.”  The customer was taken aback but undeterred.  He asked again, pointing out that he had just paid a few moments before. Apparently, the policy does not address timing, so again, the request was refused.  When the customer asked again, we moved to lesson two.
  2. Blame someone else. The salesperson then shared that this wasn’t her policy, but instead had been created by “accounting.”  I wondered how big the accounting department might be at a little mom-and-pop store like this one, but no matter. Someone else had set this policy, and we were all powerless to change it.
  3. Pass the buck. When the specter of “Accounting” did not seal the deal, the salesperson called over another employee.  Unsurprisingly, she confirmed the bad news: that was the policy, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. It became clear that both employees had been taught lesson four:
  4. Don’t care. It was obvious that these two had no vested interest in making this person happy.  For whatever reason, their engagement with the company simply involved showing up, doing their job, and going home.  Apparently, long-term customer satisfaction did not figure into their performance review. As a result, we finally got to lesson five.
  5. Offend a member of a larger group. This guy was part of a group of dads.  You can be sure he told each one of them about the refusal.  You can be sure that when the group has to pick their next outing, this store would not be on the list.  For want of a small refund and a bit of kindness, a whole collection of families were alienated.

This whole conversation took less than five minutes before the dad finally gave up.  The salespeople had no idea of the damage they had done, and neither would the store owner, who was not present.

Good customer service is hard, but bad customer service is so easy.  For all of us in service organizations, we need to remember that good service is a continuous effort and even a slight slip can create lasting damage.

The unhappy dad went back to his child, and I moved forward to pay my bill.  I didn’t have the nerve to ask if I could use his coupon.

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1. Wally Bock - December 20, 2009

Great post, Chuck. There’s a money quote here that might even be worth a tattoo.

“Good customer service is hard, but bad customer service is so easy.”


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